Be Innocent

 

Life Story of Abraham Zandman

 

 

Zandman Abraham

 

 

Introduction


Many years have passed since the end of World War II but it seems that it happened only yesterday and that nothing has changed in the geopolitical reality in which we live.

This demands the Jewish people existential survival fitness. Therefore every story which tells about the humanity, courage and resourcefulness of a Jew at that time is very important.

 

Such is the story of Abraham Zandman, who during the troubles in Poland and Russia during the war, preserved and developed the concept of creative spirit.
His story tells the history alive and well, even in the most deferred corners.
As one of the giants of literature, it glows in a poetic spotlight and illuminates the nature and soul of the humankind then and now.

 

 

 

Contents

 

1. Before the War

A. Religious Childhhood in Gostinin and Lodz

B. Secular Adulthood in Warsaw

C. Outbreak of War

2. During the War

D. Soviet Union Theft Method
E. Gulag in Siberia
F. Kazakhstan Commerce

G. Bombs Foundry and Friends

3. After the War

H. Ruined Poland
I. Theatre in Bergen Belsen
J. Immigration to Israel

 

Photos Gallery

 

 

 

 

1. Before the War

 

 

A. Religious Childhhood in Gostinin and Lodz

 

I was born in 1906 in the town of Gostinin, Poland, near the city of Lodz. My father, Yaakov Aryeh Zandman, Follower of the great Rabbi of Gur, was a rabbi and a grocer.

 

I was about five when Moses, my oldest brother, a student at Yeshivat Lomza, died from tuberculosis. He got a cold in the mikveh bath, where he went every midnight.

Moses was an ascetic who learned Kabbalah, and was very popular among the yeshiva students.

After his death, one of his closest friends got mad. He was standing at the window of his house, shouting: "Moses died because you did not return to religion"!.

 

When I was ten my mother died. My older sister, Gutta, became caretaker of the children. At the age of fiveteen I was sent to study at a yeshiva in Lodz. My father remarried.

 

I was a son of poor in Lodz, who ate by "days" I received from the Yeshiva's management. Every day in the week at a different householder, who agreed to support with meals poor yeshiva students. Sometimes I slept on a bench in the synagogue. After two years I got tired, and decided to go home.

 

I came back to Gostinin, and along with my older brother we were the founders of the local branch of "Workers Association of Israel" party.

My older brother and I decided to immigrate to Israel. We wanted to learn a useful skill, and we chose carpentry. Our father demanded from us to learn from professional Gentiles, because he feared that we shell become secular. This was a real threat with Jewish artisans.

 

I worked in a carpentery for about a year. Then I got an offer to work at a carpentry in Lodz. But I'd already cut my hair wigs and had more secular customs, and my family in this city was very religious. So I left Lodz after a brief period and went to Warsaw.

 

 

B. Secular Adulthood in Warsaw

Two years I shared, in a cramped hostel in Warsaw, not a large bed with a guy named Burstein. We slept against each other, with the head of each one close to the other's foot.

Burstein was very talented in theater, could play the violin well, had a talent and a voice for singing, could act, draw characters, and dress and do makeup to players according to drawings.

Thanks to him I became interested in the theater art.

 

I knew through him a girl named Pola Kovalski, who became my wife. We had two sons, David and Michael. They were five and seven years old when the war broke out. My wife was an excellent dressmaker, and earned good money from sewing fancy dresses to Warsaw's elite women.

 

I was hired as a production worker in an electric wires factory. It was one of the only Jewish factories in Poland, and one of the few who employed Jews. I worked there for several years on the assembly line of the wires. Then I became a maintenance man.

 

All the time I continued to learn on my own and became self-taught scholar. Once, while walking a few hours, I read a book of hundreds pages.

 

I was active in amateurs' theater that I founded with friends. The theater was called "The Central Ensemble for Drama." I was there an actor and assistant director.

The ensemble produced dozens of plays, reduced to a smaller format. We were famous in Warsaw and its surroundings. Among other things we were minor players in "In Poland's Forests", which was made acording to a novel by David Opashoto.

I started my career in theater as a prompter in one of the largest Jewish theaters.

 

I was a member in "Workers of Zion Left." Party. When we, five party activists, turned to the activist Gruenbaum from big "Mapai" party, to provide us certificates for immigration to Israel, he drew us a little circle in black pencil, and said: "This is the land of Israel." He went around the circle with spiral growing lines, and then cut it straight to center. "You", he said, "come to Israel after you have made big rounds. We, however, we got it straight."

 

He referred to the Communist side of my party, who opposed his party's pure Zionism.

He gave us five certificates. But since I had a woman, and needed two, I did not take one.

 

I was also a secretary in the Jewish Wood Workers' union in Warsaw. I was positioned at the Employment Bureau and delivered working days, right up until the outbreak of war.

 

I joined the Jewish Brigade, who had planned to join the socialist forces who fought in Spain during the Civil War. Only the beginning of World War prevented the trip.

 

 

C. Outbreak of War

On 9 September 1939, several days after the war began, at midnight, the prime minister of Poland turned on the radio, in a dramatic announcement to the Polish people: "Polish citizens! The Nazis invaded Poland, and are moving toward Warsaw. All men who are able to take up arms should evacuate the city and move east to the Bug area, where we shell provide them with weapons, and get organized to attack the invader."

The roumor then was that the Nazis are not going to hurt women and children.

I talked with my wife, and we agreed that she will stay with the kids, and I will get to the east.

In three in the morning I went out to the street. We lived in Mila Street, in a large apartments building with an inner yard. The street was full of people with all their belongings in carts, and they all went east.

We walked for three days and nights until we got to the Bug area. The Germans bombed us from the air many times.

But in the Bug did not wait for us no guns and no commanders. There was also no way back. So after several weeks we boarded the train to the Russian border, to Lvov.

 

 

 

 

2. During the War

 

 

D. Soviet Union Theft Method

 

When we got to the Soviet Union, after our flight from Hitler, we thought we were coming to the land of freedom, land of equality.

 

We came from Poland, where there was a big difference between rich and poor, between employer and landlord. We were young and we thought that now we come to a land where the sun shines on everyone. As the sun shines on everyone equally, in the same way all people are equal. We have found that inequality is so big there, so obvious, that the situation is worse than in capitalist countries.

The first thing we saw when we crossed the border in Ukraine, and looked through the windows of the train, were people going with tattered rags. Their legs were wrapped with rags for shoes. The children were not dressed. Women were carrying wood on the head. We said: "What!? This is the socialist country where everyone is living well!?

They took us to Donbass, and for the first two weeks we received special food. When we entered the dining room, no one from the city entered. We saw that by the windows there are children and few adults, looking at what we eat. They were with such eyes, that it was just not normal. Only afterward it became apparent to us that the food prepared for us was special. Those who worked there, all the workers, received more regular food.

In October there is a holiday there called Oktoberskaya, the revolution holiday, and balls are arranged. They arranged a ball a big school, and invited us, a group of about fifteen people who came from Poland.

They prepared a beautiful table with white tablecloth, a lot of drinking, good food, an actor-singer with an accordion, and we sat and we had a pretty good time.

Suddenly I stood up and went into the next room. I saw sitting there about ten workers, without a tablecloth, with a little vodka and black bread, in the dark.

I asked them: "Where are you from? Why do you not coming to eat and celebrate with us?"

They replied: "We are the workers".

I saw what a gap exists between managers and workers. Much worse than in the capitalist countries. I could not imagine having a ball over there with the workers in such conditions.

It affected us very negatively. We saw that it is not true what they say, of building socialism. Socialism, apparently, is only for a thin layer, upper, and the worker suffers on. In food, clothing, and equality.

A few months later I moved to Kharkov, and worked in "Leika" cameras factory. We wanted to enter the dining room for lunch. It turned out that there are two dining rooms: one for managers, and one for workers.

Again we realized that on each step of the way inequality is striking.

In capitalist countries, if you did not have money, you could not enter the restaurant. Here was something else. Not about money. Very simple, putting up people in ranks. That degree and that degree. The workers has special conditions, lower then the conditions of the managers.

We just said that our God died. Because it was all our faith: we're coming to a land where socialism is built, where there will be no such gap between people.

 

 

I worked as a clerk in Poltava in supply for dining rooms and restaurants. Restaurant was a place where you could get food for money. Dining rooms were next to each factory, for the workers.

I provided all the commodities, like sugar, sweets and fat, and even firewood in winter. So I had access to all these places, and I saw how life there are.

The distribution was very careful, miserly, for the dining rooms of factories. In contrast, the restaurants recieved much much. For hundreds of dining room workers we got half a sack of sugar. For the restaurant, where a lot less people ate, we got a sack and a half.

I got the division from the office. There were a manager and bookkeeper overthere. They delivered the most for restaurants, where the money paid in them was or from the black-market or if you earned more.

Additionally, thefts there were on large scale. In the truck in which I carried the supply sat behind two porters. They made holes in the sacks of sugar, and took out to the pocket or a bag. Until I brought the sugar to its destination, a quarter of sack was missing. Sometimes we traveled in a heavy snow, and there were goodies on the truck, like cookies or candies. On the way they took and threw a box here and a box there into the snow, and made a sign of where. I could not understand. Before we went I counted it all. When I came to the destination it was missing and missing.

On the one hand the suppliers stole. If something came after all to the dining room, the cooks and those who worked there also stole whatever was at hand. Until the food reached the table it was diluted, worthless, and nothing left out of it.

All the stealing went to the black market. There was a shortage of everything, especially food. There was value for each piece of bread, any small item of food, and the price of a piece of bread on the black market was ten times the official price. When I came to the market I saw children aged ten, fifteen, standing and holding for sale in their hands, the first a piece of bread, the second a small candy, a third number of cigarettes. So it was sold, and there was a big rush of buyers for these things.

 

 

The queues where food was sold officially were very long. We had to get up at four o'clock in the morning, sometimes even two, to a store selling bread. Sometimes in temperatures of forty degrees below zero. We stood there from two after midnight until eight in the morning, when the bread arrived. But the queue was so long, that when it came to the last people, there was no bread anymore. "Not enough! Missing! Done!", was the answer from the counter. We stood in line all night, and finally went home without bread.

We said, we who came from Poland, to the citizens there: "What, what happened? Why should it be that there is no food, a piece of bread for anyone? Why must everyone go now to the black market, pay ten times, and there is nothing left at home?"

They answered back: "war, war."

There was then a war against Finland. Finland against Russia is like a mouse against an elephant. Ukraine here, thousands of miles from the border with Finland. So far away. They felt as if all Russia is involved in the war, and all food has to go for the military.

I asked them: "Before the war it was better?"

They replied: "All the time we are at war." They've become used to that as this is how it should be.

Most people accepted the situation for granted. Either everyone has been brainwashed and they said about it all: "it should be", or they were dumbs. I could not understand. Their behavior was like that of big kids. If we heard something, some kind of protest, then only from the side, and not exactly in w form of protest, but that one have to suffer and there is no other choice.

 

 

There were a lot of guys who wanted to return from the Soviet Union in 1940, including me. It was said that there will be civilians exchanges between Poland and Russia. Russia will returns the people who fled from Poland, and take those who are dangerous for Germany.

We waited in Lvov until the replacement.

One day, the NKVD put suddenly, at four o'clock in the morning, trucks in the streets. Within an hour, they were loaded with several thousand who fled to the east from the Germans, because they thought that in that way they will save themselves.

They took us all to the famous Brigitkas jail. They put in a room designed for twenty, a hundred men. Sleep was impossible, just sit. It was summer, the heat is terrible, and so we spent three weeks.

There were inside people from all society layers, including rich people from Lvov, who were arrested as dangerous to society.

We spent the time with questions of "What will happen" and all kinds of guesses. So I gave a suggestion that anyone who remembers anything interesting, some kind of a story, or song, or can quote, will tell it, to pass the time.

I remember even that I started, because I gave the proposal. I recited to them the story 'Bonche Shut up', by I.L. Peretz:

Bonche reached heaven and was asked: "What do you want? You can get everything, everything you want!"

He, who all his life was hungry, never ate and filled up, and a piece of buttered bread had not seen ever, because he was a very poor man, said: "Oh! I want a roll with butter".

We sat there for three weeks, and received almost no food at all. The allegory was that then when we shell get out, all that we shell wish for will be just to eat a roll with butter.

 

 

E. Gulag in Siberia

One evening they took us all and put into freight cars. A place for twenty people became for sixty. We received only bread and water, and traveled about ten days on the train. We were carried to a place far away, deep in Russia, in Siberia.

 

They took us out to an empty place, we did not see anything except woods, and said: "There you go! This is the place! Make your life here. log trees, build shacks, and go to work in logging. That will be your life all the time."

After two months, they called each of us to the NKVD office and said: "sign! Sign!"

- "What does this say?"

- "As 'a person dangerous to society', you get three years in a labor camp."

So we had to live there.

 

It was near the river Kolva, near the Arctic Circle. The summer night was short as a flash. The sun went down and immediately came up.

There were camps for prisoners there from the days of Queen Katherine. It was a dense network, and no one could escape. If you run away from one, you were caught by the other.

The Camps were for working in logging. Our camp was one where they cut the trees. In another camp, on the river bank, they sent the timber. This was done by high built criss-cross barges. Downstream there were wood-processing plants.

Everything was done with strict bookkeeping: signings the timber, documentation, and phone messages for delivery.

Our only tool was a simple ax. It served as a hammer, saw, spade, knife and so on. We had people who were masters of using it.

 

In the camp there were several thousand people. Most of them thieves, rapists, murderers and all kinds of criminals.

But there were also several hundred 'political', people sentenced for 'counter revolution', section fifty-eight in the low. The punishment was twenty, twenty-five years, and at least ten years.

We were several hundred who got three years.

 

We organized ourselves to live there. Prepare the dining room, kitchen and all the rest.

We had to get up at five in the morning, stand in line to the kitchen, and get a piece of bread and soup, which was a lot of water and some beans, something terrible.

We were an hour in line. We were thousands, and the facilities were not so big so they could serve the people quickly. Until we received the ration it was already six o'clock, and we had to go to work.

 

We went to work with an armed guard from the NKVD accompanied by dogs. The walk took an hour and a half. The place where we were chopping the trees was at a distance about eight miles away from the camp.

We got good clothes, and a supervisor even stood by the gate watching. To those who were not dressed well, or were not wearing good shoes, he did not let go to work. But winter was very, very strong. The snow was over five feet, six feet deep. We went with one foot into the snow, and we could not get it out. I cannot explain how we reached our destination.

In thw working site our trousers were very wet from the snow and the cold froze them completely. They were as made of tin. We wanted to make some fire from wood, which was in abundance, but the soldier began to shout, "keep warm at work!". We had to work to warm up. He did not let us to light a fire, but at twelve in noon, and then we could rest for half an hour.

 

The worst problem was with a piece of bread we got. Those who went for work received eight hundred grams of bread. But this piece of black bread was filled with water. Eight hundred grams were only a small slice. All the argument between us was what to do with the slice. If we eat it all at once, at six in the morning, what will be during the day? We shell starve. Split it to pieces? Eat some immediately and the rest during the day? It is not safe. There were so many stealings that it was impossible to save. Even if you watched with thousand eyes, the bread was stolen from you. So the best was to eat. It enters the stomach and it is impossible to steal it anymore. But all along the day we were hungry and starving.

 

We worked until five six o'clock. When we came to the camp it was after seven. Again we stood an hour in line, to get the soup, this time without bread.

 

The clothes were wet from the snow and rain. There was an invalid who was the guardian of our shack. He took the clothes of the whole group, and hanged them to dry in front of the stove. The clothes were not dry enough until four o'clock in the morning, when we started to get dressed. He brought them almost dry. I put on my clothes, stood in line for food, and the trousers became hard from the cold, which was often more than forty degrees celsius below zero.

 

Many have fallen because they could not hold on. The criminals stole whatever came to hand and got along. Old timers 'political' worked in offices or in the kitchen, or received packages from home, and also got along somehow. But we were new in Russia, and did not receive any help.

Anyone who just stopped to think of himself, to hold himself clean and all the rest, became sick immediatly. There were a lot of lice, and lice are diseases. It was necessary to wash up, prepare and clean everything. You also had to eat everything. Because there was food that not everyone could eat. They gave food that was was really not good. Those who could not eat and only drank water, they lacked vitamins, got swollen and died. Died like flies from it. Many, many fell. Particularly those from the Czechoslovakia and Hungary. They could not survive. They were not used to this. We from Poland survived more.

There was no hospital there. There was a paramedic of some kind, but there was not enough medicine. Every day people who perished from cold or hunger were taken out from the the barracks. Many many were buried in the woods. Every morning we took there several corpse-filled carts. Sometimes, in turn, me too. We saw the dead arms and legs frozen like sticks. So they threw them into the common pit.

 

Once the temperature was fifty degrees below zero. After minus forty it was not forced to go to work, and only who wanted came out. They came to us and said that whoever wants to go to work, will get a double ration and so on.

I was a squad leader. I came to my group, twenty-five people, and said that those who want to earn a double ration of food will come and go to work.

I was well dressed and warm. First to say: "I'll".

I was followed by four more.

We took the guard with a dog, and we went six miles into the forest.

The air was so quiet, you could almost hear the frost. We felt it. You could stand the cold because there was no wind. It was so quiet.

 

We started to work and warmed up. We made a double amount. We had to make four cubic meters, but we did eight. When we returned to camp, we felt so good, better than those who stayed. We did well. We received double rations for getting out to work and extra food for the double amount of wood chopping.

 

We saw that the devil is not so bad. Actually in the frost, when a man does not lower himself to the lowest, but instead holds himself steady and works, he feels alive and his mood doesn't sink. He can hold on.

 

After a few months we knew more about the conditions in the camp. I joined a group of builders who built the barracks, and did not feel a shortage anymore.

Those who worked in the camp got up at seven, and didn't have to stand in line. After all the groups had already left for work, we went to take food. And we got something better. One more spoonful of food, one more piece of bread. We were the happy ones.

I was one of the best at work, and became head of a group of builders in the carpentry. No longer lived in the barracks, but made me a place in the carpentry. I went to breakfast at seven-thirty, and had dinner first, before the groups returned from work. I lived a life that could be relied upon, and indeed left healthy the camp.

 

There were many Gypsy women in the camp. They were given ten years for vagrancy. In Russia everyone should have a place of work and residential address. The Gypsies brought with them their quilts. Because I worked in a carpentry and had a lot of bread, I bought with it from them the quilts. I slept well and at night they would come sometimes to get warm with me.

I was not in any social activity. All our thoughts were how we shell hold ourselves. We figured it was not forever. Finally we shell get out of here. We knew very little about the war. Sometimes came to us about a month old newspaper, which wrapped a package received from one of the families. We gathered all of us, and he who could read Russian well read every word. We added information from here and there and in this way got a picture of what happened in the world.

I met in the camp a Jew who was in Birobidzhan. He ran away from it and was sentenced for ten years. He told how difficult it was there with the food. Supply was so poor that they were starving sometimes. Once they recieved barrels of herring. There stomach was so empty, that they started drinking the salty water. Afterwards their stomach started to burn and they could not sleep all the night.

 

We had to sit there for three years. But in 1942 an agreement was signed between the USSR and Sikorski from Poland in London, and all those who fled from Poland were freed. After a year and a half I was free.

We had to sit there for three years. But in 1942 the agreement was signed between the USSR Sikorski in London, and let all those who fled from Poland. After a year and a half I was free.

I felt very healthy. I learned a lesson that what ever will happens to me, any troubles that will be, if I will not fall in spirit, and just hold high the mood, I'll manage. This is how you can survive all the troubles.

 

 

F. Kazakhstan Commerce

 

After we were reliesed, we were sent to Kazakhstan, to a kolkhoz near the city Turkestan.

 

We were five friends who were together in the camp. It is very important, when you're in trouble, to have some friends who hold out together with you in one group, helping each other. We were not equal. One was a worker, one lad sitting, the other a yeshiva student . But fate brought us together. We were together. When someone missing something, he got it from the others. So when we left, we gave the word that we will continue to be together.

 

It was winter, and it was pretty cold over there. In the summer it is fifty above zero and in winter twenty below zero. It was worse in Central Asia more then in Siberia, where it is dry and quiet.

We suffered from the cold but didn't receive a house to live in. We received only a small clay hut, the size of a dog kennel. We had to take hay from field and put in instead of mattresses.

We received millstones and wheat which we had to grind. We baked small flat pitas. We learned how to do it quickly.

 

We started to work in the kolkhoz. We saw the the situation there is miserable, and the kolkhozniks are vey poor. They work in the fields, give all to the government warehouses, and in return receive food rations and tattered and torn clothing.

But we knew that for us this situation is temporary. As we were released from the camp, we will free ourselves from here. We are here just to get through the war. We began to hear some more from Poland and the war and thought that the five of us will survive. We'll manage somehow and leave healthy.

 

 

What have we done? We made an arrangment that every time each one of us went out to the wide world. We were about 500 kilometers north of Tashkent. We knew that in Tashkent there is a plenty, because there's a novel called: 'Tashkent, City of Bread'. We wanted to go there and bring good things.

 

We studied the structure of the economy in the area: I In one place there is only potatoes. In Arys there is plenty of salt. Around Tashkent only wheat, white flour and bread. In the east, closer to China, there is only rice but no potatoes or flour. In Jambul in the east there are alcohol factories. In Tashkent the winter clothings and fabrics are very cheap. It is hot there all the time, and everyone sell the winter clothes they received in ration.

 

We had to work. Without a working ticket it was impossible. We all registered ourselves to work. But each time one of us took few days off and was on the road with the goods.

 

It was forbidden to travel by train without permission. You had to report to the authorities about the purpose of each trip. So how to travel? You will not get a permission to go and buy stuff like that in the black market.

We traveled on the roof of the train, or in the following way: Each train on the Moscow-Tashkent route was passing through our station at night. We went with 'smart guys' like us, from all kinds of farming communities, including many Jews, and gave 'dues' to the NKVD. They went through all the cars to check who travel without permission. Each one of us gave a hundred rubles to someone who knew the guard and he took them to the NKVD. The policeman who passed and saw us recognized in the faces who belongs to the gang.

 

We traveled east and bought suitcases full of rice. Then we traveled to Tashkent overnight and sold it on the market. We bought warm clothes and traveled back to Jambul, again over night. In Jambul we sold the clothes, bought some cheap alcohol, and returned to the kolkhoz. There for alcohol you could get the king himself. With the money we bought all kinds of good food.

 

Once I wanted to get out of Tashkent. I was full on the body with fabrics I wrapped around me. Above the fabric I was wearing two hot suits. I arrived to the station, but there I've had a problem. The guard changed. The Guard that took money was not on the train. You could not travel on that train.

 

I waited a few hours. The next train does not leave till noon the next day. If I'll walk around with these clothes, certainly the police will arrest me.

What did I do? I got on a freight train. I saw connecting a locomotive to a freight train to north direction. I climbed to the car and the train really went my way.

 

But when the train came to the city where I had to go down it was already daylight. Military personnel moved around in the station. I do not know if it was every day, or they were just looking for someone who ran away, but they caught me.

 

They took me to the police immediately. They took away everything, and sat me down for three weeks in prison. Then there was a trial.

 

The trial was not because I was carrying these things. I said I went to buy them for all the guys. One is getting married, I told, and I had to buy clothes for the young couple. For that they did not do anything to me. Just that you should not travel by freight train and there is no excuse for that. This is an order without ease, and the penalty prescribed by law is one year in prison.

 

I also got a 'one'. All things were returned to me, but I got a year in a labor camp. They sent me to Shymkent, in the crossroad between Tashkent, Jambul and Turkestan, to a bombs factory.

 

 

G. Bombs Foundry and Friends

In this labor camp there were about five thousand men. The next morning, all the new ones, about six hundred and fifty, stood in the yard in order, in long lines, four in a row.

The labor camp manager came and started hanging around us. I saw in his face that he was a Jew, I knew immediately.

He began to walk among us and shouted so hard, that the ground shook.

I thought: "A dog of some kind is surely standing in front of me".

 

He started asking: "Who has a profession? Come out!"

Since I worked in construction and carpentry in the camps and knew carpentry, I stepped forward.

"What are you?" He asked.

I replied: "I'm a carpenter."

He began to curse me such curses, that you can not put them in the mouth in Hebrew: "What! You! You'll spoil the eggs here! Ai! Go back!"

In such strong shouts that I was afraid and went back to the row.

 

Finally, after all that, we went to work, all of us, In bombs casting. It was not far away to go and the work was not that bad. It was just very hot.

 

In all of these camps there is also a manager from the prisoners who is responsible for the chief manager. Suddenly, at ten o'clock at night, when I was on the bed, I heard him start shouting: "Zandman to the manager!"

 

We all knew that if the N.K.V.D call you in the evening or at night, there is something harsh, penalty or arrest. I got up and went to him. I went in and I was shaking. I did not know what it is.

 

"Sit down", he said and looked at the papers: "I see here what kind of a criminal past you have", he laughed.

He saw that I was punished only because I traveled without permission and I'm not a great offender.

He continued: "Well. I'll give you a note. You'll go to our engineer and she'll fix you in the carpentry. You will not have to go to work in the foundry.

He started talking to me in Yiddish and asked where I am from, what country, and so on. Such things that I wanted to cry. I saw what a Jewish heart sits in front of me. A commander of five thousand prisoners, criminals and murderers, and he is behaving like this, like a brother, a father.

 

The next day, instead of going to work, I went to the engeneer. I entered and saw a woman, something extraordinary. She looked like a rabbi's dauther or a young rabbi's wife, with the black hair and such delicate face. She gave me a permit to work in the carpentry.

I took the note to the carpentry. There was there one man from Korea. We did not talk much. He just asked me, 'How much do you have? "

I answered: "A year".

He said: "Ay, I have twenty". He is for twenty years, and was sitting already five years. Worked in several places and now he runs the carpentry.

I started working in the carpentry shop. I felt no shortage.

 

After six months in the camp the manager called me again. He spoke to me in Yiddish and said: "Look, you know, I want to make you unguarded prisoner. You can go outside without guard. But if you do any trick and run away, you put in the pit three Jews".

He told me also who signed the permit for me to get out without guard. He, regional general manager of all the camps, and another one who was one of the big chiefs there. All the managers there were Jews. One brought the other.

Since then, every time they needed to arrange something at home they were calling me, and I went out and fixed it.

But why he wanted to make me a prisoner without guard I learned only later. In what did he use me? He was married. He had a wife, children, and so on. In his office was working a young woman, also married, and they fell in love. He had to arrange secret meetings, and let me go out so he could send someone to arrange the meetings.

 

One evening I will never forget. It was the eve of Passover. I was already in the quarters. Suddenly the prisoner in charge and began shouting: "Zandman to the manager"!

Everyone sayed: "You must have done something, a speculation, you're a speculator".

I entered the office. He sat there and said: "Let's see who remembers more of the Passover Haggadah, me or you".

He started to say fairly large parts of the Passover Haggadah. I also said a little, and so we sat for half an hour until he said: "Well, enough, go to sleep".

 

But the camp there was also a Jewish primary physician. He had the rank of colonel, and was responsible for twenty-five thousand prisoners in all the camps around. A week before Passover he invited me to his house for Passover eve in eight o'clock to fix the closet doors that did not close properly.

I went to him. I entered the house. In the first room there was nobody. I just heard a woman's voice from the other room, asking me to wait, she is about to come down. Then she came. A woman of about sixty, with a little rouge on the lips, and dressed as a rabbi's wife, with something on her head. She said to me: "I dressed up beautifully and it means that I appreciate you".

 

Until the doctor came I sat and talked with the woman. It turns out that already in the Czar they both learned medicine, he in Paris and she in Russia. She brought an expensive box, took out letters and showed me the letters in French he wrote to her when he was a student in France.

 

We sat for a while. Then the doctor came home. There was no Passover Haggadah. There were thin pitas as Matzot and a bottle of wine. We sat, and from what I recalled I conducted the holy meal and said the Haggadah. He repeated word a word and did not want to miss anything.

Then he took out a book of stories by Y.L. Peretz in Yiddish and asked me to read him. He could not read Yiddish.

I sat there until eleven o'clock, read and told him stories that I remembered. They were very intelligent, very gentle, and I appreciated them very much as Jews. Despite running camps of the biggest criminals they were with a great Jewish heart.

 

 

 

 

3. After the War

 

 

H. Ruined Poland

After Poland was liberated by the Russians I came back there. I came to Lodz and I met my older sister Gutta, who was in the Lodz ghetto during the whole war. Her husband had a lumberyard and he continued to run it for the Judenrat.

 

Gutta had a young groom who worked cleaning trains cars returning from the death camps.

In these wagons some of the victims hid, before sent to their deaths, notes which told of what is going to happen to them.

The groom found these notes and told about them to the ghetto.

As a result he was in mortal danger from Bibov, the Nazi commander of the city.

He and his wife hid behind a false wall before the ghetto's elimination.

Every day Bibov took Guttta, her husband and their young son, and slap them for hours with a whip, in order to force them to reveal where the hiding place is.

They did not break up.

 

Bibov left alive seven hundreds Jews from the entire ghetto.

Gutta was among them.

This was in order that they will clean up his offices and destroy all evidence of his crimes.

Bibov planned to murder them after they'll finish cleaning.

They dug their own grave to make a burriel place for themselves.

Bibov fled before he could complete his scheme.

 

Gutta told me that she found out that my wife and sons were sent to Treblinka, along with everyone in the big house where we lived in Warsaw. A neighbor who survived the holocaust told her that she saw them standing in a group in front of the house and go up to the lorries.

The house was in Mila street, not far from the headquarters of the Warsaw rebellion.

 

I returned to Warsaw. From the house in the ghetto was left only a heap of stones.

One of the few remaining intact buildings was of my rich religous uncle Mendel Zandman.

He had nine children. He killed himself together with his large family before they were sent to the death kamp.

The house was empty and many books were thrown on the floor.

Hundred and fifty members of the Zandman extensive family perished in the holocaust.

 

I organized a carpentry cooperative in Lodz with fifteen members.

We got from the party machinery and a place and started working.

But I wanted to immigrate to Israel.

After two years in Poland I traveled to Bergen - Belzen.

 

 

I. Theatre in Bergen Belsen

In Bergen-Belzen I founded with friends a Yiddish theatre. Its name was 'Theatre of the Jewish workers'.

We presented Yiddish plays to refugees all over Germany.

I was the theater manager, director, plays adaptor, and one of the main actors.

 

Our most successful play was 'The Treasure', according to David Pinsky's book. This play deals with a cripple who tells that he discovered a treasure in the graveyard. The relation of his town men to him improve beyond recognition, until it becomes clear that there is no treasure there. I played in the cripple.

 

Another Play that we presented was 'The Deaf' by David Bergelson. The play deals with a deaf worker in a flour mill, who falls in love with the mill owner's dauther. I played the owner mill's owner.

 

Another play was 'The Mutiny' by Y.B. Tzipor. Peasants rebel against their landlord who demands their daughters on their wedding night. I played the landlaord.

 

 

J. Immigration to Israel

 

After nearly two years in Bergen-Belzen I immigrated to Israel.

I traveled to Israel on the ship 'Kedma', along with many friends. On the ship was also an entire football team, which played in the league in Bergen-Belzen.

In Haifa port waited for us a group of military men, led by Yitzhak Sadeh. A doctor gave us tests and we were recruited to the army. I was too old to be a soldier and was released.

From the port they sent the immigrants who'd been drafted to Latrun battles. Many of them lost their lives, including most members of the football team. Other friends of mine died in Negba battles.

I settled in Haifa and set up a carpentry cooperative named "The Builders". The Carpentry's place was at Bar-Yehuda and Yad-Labanim crossroad.

We planned to build the members apartments nearby and recieved a license for it.

But we got an offer to move to larger place in Tel-Hannan and unite there with another cooperative. It's been too much and after a few years I got tired.

I retired and started with my new wife, Golda, an independent business.

 

 

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